Sep 1, 2010

Chicago's Gang Problem: Understanding and Addressing the Violence

In Chicago, law enforcement entities continue their pilot program aimed at deterring gang-related crime by delivering a message of deterrence directly to  gang leaders. The Chicago Tribune reports in its article, "Chicago police target gang leaders," that earlier this month federal prosecutors, Chicago police, and victims' families met with the gang, Traveling Vice Lords, to convey the impact of gang violence on the community and to relay the legal consequences of continued violence to the gang members. These call-ins are part of Chicago's efforts to address their high homicide rates, including the most recent shooting deaths of three police officers in two months and the death of an eight year old girl who was hit by a stray bullet as she was skipping rope.  

According to Philip Cook, who researches violence at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, Chicago's gang problem is more serious than that of New York City or Los Angeles.  John Hagedorn, a criminal justice professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies gangs,  theorizes in this month's Christian Science Monitor  article, " Behind Chicago's high-crime summer: persistent street gang violence," that the explanation for why "New York City's homicide rates have dropped  since the mid-1990's while Chicago's has climbed can be explained by 'how both cities tackled public housing a decade earlier.'  In what remains the largest US urban housing initiative in history, New York spent $5 billion to build or renovate about 182,000 housing units, which helped populate formerly distressed neighborhoods like the South Bronx that, over time, improved as residents strengthened their ties to local businesses and schools. " To read more about his theory, as well as Chicago's challenges and interventions around gun violence, read the full text of the article here.